Rescue

“I was lost, now I’m found by the Father, I’ve been changed from ruin to treasure.  I’ve been given a hope and a future, I’ve been blessed beyond all measure.”

                                                                                            -song by Rend Collective

I am inspired by true stories of survival and rescue.  One of my favorites is the story of Jessica Buchanan, an aid worker kidnapped in Somalia and then rescued by SEAL Team Six.  Or the story of Lara Logan, a reporter who was violently assaulted by a mob in Egypt, and then rescued by a group of women dressed head to toe in black religious dress.  One of them put her arms around Lara, pulled her away and then they all stood between her and a frenzied mob of 200-300 men.

“She put her arms around me. And oh my God, I can’t tell you what that moment was like for me. I wasn’t safe yet, because the mob was still trying to get at me.                                   But now it wasn’t just about me anymore.

                                                         Lara Logan (interview, Daily News)

**(The story of Lara Logan’s attack is quite shocking.  The details are troubling and graphic, and I want to be sensitive to my more tender-hearted readers.  For those reasons I have not included a link.)

The Bible (especially the book of Psalms) often describes God as our rescuer and deliverer.  I always like to think that when  trouble comes He will swoop in like SEAL Team Six and carry me out to safety and peace.  But of course, that’s not always how it works, is it?  

 

Instead of rescuing us from a battle, He sometimes rescues us IN it.  During difficult situations He comes nearer when we cry out for help, and stands between us and the angry mob.  Never distracted or preoccupied.  Always there, ready to be a part of our battle, like a good Father who walks through hardship with a beloved daughter or son.

How often do I cry out to be removed from pain and hardship?  How many times have I prayed for deliverance FROM my circumstances?  How frequently do I try to pray my way out of difficulty, rather than praying for wisdom and strength as I walk through those times?

Let me tell you about something that happened about four years ago:

A trusted adult did a terrible thing to my child, and I was undone.  I remember that day after school, our shaking child asked my husband and I to sit down so the story could be told, and afterward, I was left trembling with rage, grief and helplessness.

In that very moment, unforgiveness was planted; not a tiny seed, that would need tending to survive, but a full-grown, thriving, blossoming, fully-rooted unforgiveness.  It’s branches stretched all through me, and became part of my being.  I could hardly breathe, it filled me so completely.

For a month after the incident, our child would not sleep alone.  We tossed and turned through 30 nights together, and in the deepest hours of night, while the inky blackness suffocated me, I would place my hand on my child’s warm back and silently cry.  How had this happened?  How had this person felt safe to do what they did?  How would I ever be free of this choking thing inside of me?

I asked God over and over to rescue me from my anger and unforgiveness.  I begged him to rid me of it.  I did the work; spent hours praying, meditating and studying Scripture.  But I was never free. Never rescued out of this untenable situation.  For years I stood against the angry mob, with Jesus at my side, waiting for Him to take me out of there.

We were eating lunch at McAlister’s Deli with the kids (four years later) when this person came up in conversation.  Without my permission, tears began to make their way down my cheeks.  I was ashamed, and immediately began explaining myself, “I still have a hard time.  I can’t forgive.  It’s too hurtful.”

I’ll never forget the memory of my child’s face.  Humble.  Loving.  Earnest.

“Mom.  It was done to ME.  I was the one hurt.  You’re holding onto something I’ve already let heal.  You should forgive, because I already have.”

I don’t know why that moment and that conversation clicked for me.  Perhaps it was the simple truth that God had quietly done His work in my child apart from my grand efforts.  His grace and peace were being expressed through their forgiveness, while I was still trying to battle my way OUT of anger and unforgiveness.  The earnest plea of my child made me realize something else;  until that moment, my desire to be free of unforgiveness was conditional.

You see, I wanted- desperately wanted– to be free of unforgiveness.  But I also wanted justice.  How could I pardon a wrong done to my child?  How could I put forgiveness above what’s right and good and just?  I wanted an apology.  An understanding of the harm caused.  An acknowledgement of the pain brought to our doorstep.  For four years I languished in the in-between of wanting freedom and wanting justice.

In my battle against the hurt and unforgiveness, I had missed His tender admonishment, “Put down your desire for justice.  Give it to me.  Your hands are too full, and there’s no room for the forgiveness I want to give you.”  God’s rescue was complete only after I gave up my revenge, and trusted Him completely to make it right.

Sometimes God orchestrates our path so that we have to walk upon the thing He is teaching us.  I was forced to practice my new forgiveness when my child came into daily contact with the person who had done this thing.  Each morning, I lived it out by laying down my fear, my sorrow, my hurt and the memory of unforgiveness as I dropped my child off at school.

During those weeks, I focused on His grace and mercy with the thought that ultimately His goodness far outshone the memory of my pain.  The idea was that if I could fix my eyes on God, and let His character permeate the situation, He would somehow smooth out the rugged edges of my scarred heart and restore my mind to joy and peace.

Several months passed, when we heard the awful news.  Devastating events were happening in the life of the person who I’d struggled to forgive.  I searched my heart for any residue of unforgiveness, and probed my mind for leftover thoughts of vengeance, but found neither.  God had rescued me and made me new.  Instead of delighting in their troubles, I was able to earnestly pray for their comfort and healing.  My children were able to see forgiveness modeled in it’s most authentic form, and learn that God is able to do the impossible.  The improbable.  The unexpected.  And the miraculous.

“It’s not an easy journey, to get to a place where you forgive people.  But it is such a powerful place, because it frees you.”    Tyler Perry

I would add that the journey to forgiveness is best traveled with the One who heals more completely and more accurately than we could ever manage on our own.  Instead of rushing in to rescue me out of heartbreak, He was always close by, carrying me through the darkest parts, and tenderly turning my attention to His way, rather than my own.

In Galatians chapter 5, Paul says that “if we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit” to demonstrate these qualities:

“…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.”                                                        

Would I wish this whole experience away?  Absolutely.  There is nothing so fracturing to a mother’s heart as the pain of her children.  I’m not courageous or long-suffering.  If I can avoid pain and heartache, I will.  But I’m no fool.  I know the value of learning life lessons, and the strength that comes from walking through hard things.  Most of all, I see Him stepping closer during the devastating times, and ultimately being my rescue and salvation.

My understanding of God has been completely transformed as I experience motherhood.  There is always the temptation to remove obstacles from my child’s path and rescue them from pain.  (Of course there are times when this is absolutely necessary, and we act swiftly and with confidence.)  But many times, my best choice is to step in, pull them close and walk the hard road with them because the value is in the learning and the growing, however unpleasant it may be.

Our Heavenly Father knows this too, and He is right there; ready to teach, lead and rescue His beloved children.  In Joshua 1:9, God tells His people,

“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faith and Feminism: Part 2

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Proverbs 31:25-27

To be honest, I don’t spend much time reading Proverbs 31, because it’s kind of a spiritual Pinterest board.  The Proverbs 31 woman is perfect, and I always come away feeling like a big loser.  She’s industrious, and I been known to binge watch a wee bit ‘o Netflix.  She is strong and dignified, and I yell “It’s a calamity!” every time I have a hot flash.  She “rises while it is still night and provides food for her household,” and I would NEVER rise while it’s still night, for any reason.  Get yourself a bowl of cereal, ya’ll!  The Proverbs 31 woman sets a high bar.

It may surprise you then, dear reader, that Proverbs 31 is exactly where I landed a couple of days ago as I set goals for the first part of 2019.  (I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t hoping for a verse on resting in my hammock.)  And as I read through this chapter, I realized that the Proverbs 31 woman is kind of the ultimate feminist.  She is strong, capable and owns her choices.  There isn’t a sense of doubt or insecurity in her actions, and she thrives in her work, while caring for her own.  Like I said, she’s Pinterest-worthy.

The first “Take-Away” I’m getting this year from Proverbs 31 is:  She can laugh at the days to come.  Dear reader, I haven’t laughed at the days to come since I quit working.   I told Mark the other day that I feel like I’m waiting for the guillotine.  I know I will eventually go back to work, and some days I just want to go back right now to put myself out of the waiting.  The longer I spend as a SAHM, the more I love it, and I’m fearful of returning to that busy pace and full mind…even though I really loved my work!  So what’s my goal on this?  First, be present in today and ENJOY this chance I have to live a simpler, more focused life.  And second, have FAITH that when the time comes, God will provide just the perfect job for me to go back to…one that I will find stimulating and fulfilling.

Second “Take-Away” is this:  She speaks with wisdom. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how it seems we are invited to have opinions about every.  little.  thing.  Sure, I’m talking about news and social media posts, but also in “real life”…and especially between women.  If I truly believe that women should have the same opportunity and access to choose what they want for themselves, then why do I spend one second of my time evaluating decisions that aren’t mine?  There is wisdom in keeping my opinions to myself, and choosing how and when to speak, because at the end of the day, I just want my daughter, sisters, nieces and friends to be happy and fulfilled.  You want to be a doctor and work 50 hours a week?  I ordered you a great pair of tennis shoes with arch support!  You want to join the military and serve your country?  I feel safer just knowing you are on the job!  You want to be a stay at home mom and wear yoga pants five days out of seven?  Do that, and I’m with you!  Are you fit?  Paleo?  Covered in muscles?  Yay!  That hard work is worth celebrating!  Do you have softer curves and junk in the trunk?  Me too!  Babies find us irresistible!   You hold political views that are the polar opposite of mine?  I LOVE that you’ve thought about these issues and come to your own conclusions– we need thinkers in this world!  Being a strong, intelligent and influential woman is not confined to certain jobs, degrees, political parties or body types, so let’s all hold hands and take a leap off the opinion train!  

“Take-Away” #3:  she does not eat the bread of idleness. First of all, I love bread.  Sourdough, 7 grain, challah, a crusty French baguette…it’s all my favorite!  Secondly, I also enjoy hours of idleness.  You know what eats my time?  Social media.  Pinterest.  I can literally spend HOURS in a day scrolling and clicking through content that I don’t even need or want.  It’s a time suck, and it doesn’t leave me happy or fulfilled.  I’ve removed Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook from my phone (fare thee well, my brethren!) and from the favorites page on my laptop (cartoon crying…) with a goal of 30 days without a peek. Like a social media Whole30.  What am I hoping for? I don’t know, and stop asking such difficult questions!  I guess I am hopeful that by unplugging from all the likes, shares, pins, comments and funny animal videos (I miss you already!!!), I will be MORE plugged in to the moment in front of me and the people I love.

Christmas is behind us, and the New Year has begun.  School is about to begin, and I will once again have the house to myself.  I look forward to time alone to think and learn and grow.  As I pursue my purpose, I’m drawn to less.  Much less.  Less worry, less opinion and less idleness.  But of course, my hope is that in the less, I will find MORE.

As always, dear reader, I thank you for the opportunity to share my two cents!  Much gratitude and appreciation for all of your kind comments and messages.  Happy New Year!

 

 

 

Faith and Feminism: Part 1

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Two years ago I decided to get a tattoo. I was turning 44, and I was quite suddenly very comfortable in my own skin and secure in my place in this world.  Mark and I were in our beloved California, visiting our favorite little hamlet north of San Francisco.  (The town is magical, but I probably won’t ever blog about it because it’s ours, and that would feel like telling a secret I was sworn to keep.)

On the eve of my birthday, I walked into the local tattoo parlor and had “Faith” inked permanently onto my right wrist in Hebrew.  You see, in addition to settling into myself, I had also made a permanent, unchanging realization about the importance of faith in my life.

Everyone has faith in something.  I would say that for many years in my life, despite a belief in God, I had very little faith in Him.  My faith was in myself and my ability to DO and HAVE.  I saw the good in my life as a reflection of my own ability and grit.

For many years, things rocked along, and I saw success in my career and personal life.  During this time, I gave God the time and recognition that one might give their mother-in-law or second cousin twice removed.  I was hyper-focused on the “rightness” of following God’s laws, and had very little empathy.  I confess that during those years I was often unkind and graceless in my responses.  My faith was a way to satisfy my need to be right.  A hammer to drive home my point.

I really don’t know when God began to change my heart.  If I look back, I realize that little by little, I began to desire knowing Him, and the more my mind learned, the more my heart was remolded.  I can’t separate the events that led to a deep, abiding, living faith;  was it the study of Ephesians that we did in church?  or the conversations with my friend Sara about living a life of faith?  or the fact that my children were baptized and I was deeply moved by that experience?  I believe that God orchestrated all of these things and many more to drive me toward Him.

What I’ve learned about God is that He pursues us.   For a person like me who desires total autonomy and control over the events of her life, this chase was essential in transforming my faith.  It’s hard to ignore Someone when then are always at your heels, pulling you into Their goodness and grace.  Finally, I stopped and gave Him my attention and that has made all the difference in my life.

If you know me, you know that I find a great deal of satisfaction in my success as an educator.  It thrills me to be good at what I do, and I thrive in situations where I can help and do for others.  For many years, my job was my identity.  It shames me to say that my views on stay at home moms were not altogether charitable.  I “couldn’t imagine feeling fulfilled” as a stay at home mom, and there was never a time where I was compelled to seriously consider making that kind of a move.  So, nobody was more surprised than me, when that exact idea sprouted and grew inside me.

It took me three years to quit my job.  I almost couldn’t let go, despite knowing it was exactly where God was leading me.  By this point, I knew that I was in a season where I had to step back and serve my family.  Again, so many events and conversations led to this knowledge, but little by little the idea of staying home filled my every cell with peace and confidence.  The more time I spent in God’s Word, the more I began to hear the Holy Spirit confirm this monumental move.  Not that it was easy.  Obviously.  I struggled with leaving a job I loved to stay home, and it took over one thousand days to actually do it.

You know what’s funny about stepping out in faith toward the thing that God has for you?  It isn’t a recipe for “the easy life.”  Silly me, I kind-of assumed that once I did step away from work I’d be happy as a clam and that life would be shinier and less of a struggle.  Not so, dear reader.  My first year as a stay at home mom was bumpy.  I battled loneliness so big it was almost tangible.  It filled me and deflated me at the same time, and I frantically filled my time because I don’t know how to rest.  In early October, my husband and I were in a horrible car accident where our brand new car was totaled, and the firetrucks had to close the freeway to get us moved to safety.  Then, my beloved husband, Mark was diagnosed with cancer and we began the spinning plates act of appointments, tests, treatment and recovery.  I seriously underestimated the emotional burden of cancer.  At the same time all of this was going on, both of my kids were struggling to adjust to new situations at school, and they often felt the stings of failure, rejection and loneliness that seem to infuse adolescence.

Heartache, loneliness and fear were our constant companions, but at the same time, those things were being constantly beaten back by the love and comfort of God.  It’s hard to explain that while I felt so many layers of worry and pain, I also reaped a harvest of gratitude during that difficult year.  The accident?  We missed being T-boned by an 18 wheeler barreling past us in the fast lane, by less than a yard.  Our injuries?  Minor in spite of the fact that we were rear-ended at a full stop by a car going 50 miles per hour.  The totaled car?  Insurance paid more than we needed to get an even better vehicle.

Mark’s journey with cancer was also chock full of blessing.  His treatment was completed by an amazing group of doctors who pioneered the radiation therapy he received.  The side effects were horrible, but didn’t last as long as they did for most patients.  His recovery has been complete and his levels are exactly where they should be.  Again, we reaped a harvest of gratitude for God’s faithfulness to our family.

When I think of gratitude, I always think of the Apostle Paul, and how he sang songs of praise while in prison.  For many years I assumed that he was just a better person than me.  More holy and good.  What I now understand is that hard things are still hard, but when our orientation is focused toward the goodness and grace of God, there is also joy and gratitude.  We are able to see the nuggets of grace strewn throughout a disastrous situation, and our shortcomings do not determine the outcome.

My faith in God continues to deepen and expand.  He absolutely leads me to the best thing, and stays right there through it all.  He is generous and good, and He teaches me to be humble and reflective.  Rather than transporting me out of the hard things in life, my faith bends me toward the heart of God and I am changed while we walk through them together.

Being changed is not the same as being better.  While I have a deeper bend towards doing the kind and loving thing, I still get it wrong sometimes.  Well, let’s be honest.  I get it wrong a lot.  The change is in my direction and orientation.  Imagine being lost in the woods and blindly searching for a way out. Faith in God gives me a fixed point, a landmark to head towards.  I know that if I always head toward Him, I will most certainly find my way…even if I step in the wrong direction sometimes.

This work is not completed.  There is much more I need to learn, and so many more ways to follow faithfully.  But faith was given to me, and He is growing it day by day.  I’m so grateful for the chance to live more simply, with time to reflect and learn.  My fulfillment these days is not tied up in a job, or my success as a wife and mother, but following God in faith to achieve HIS good work.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God;  for anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists, and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”  Hebrews 11:6